Filed under: Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Detachment theory, economy, Encounters, Love, Mood, Ordinariness, poetry, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Christopher_Bollas, David_Shields, Elspeth_Probyn, Hannah_Arendt, Juliana_Spahr, Katie_Stewart, Leo_Bersani, Lorelei_Sontag
Try to forget.
Not unintentional forgetting, but of a thing that insists on being in the flow of things.
It could be the forgetting of a dream that you can’t stop because you’re in it, or of a sense that the world is converging there on that other guy’s table. All of history did not do its work to produce you. You can imagine that all history sought to produce you, but who are you? A bundle of action and feral muttering, a sweet wrapped and inhaled by strangers, booty for money, a bird puffing out its chest, a bit scared, an accident.
Filed under: Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, depression, Detachment theory, emotion, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, sexuality, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog | Tags: aesthetics, Aimee_Mann, Attachment, Barbara_Browning, conceptual_art, dreams, Gil-Scott_Heron, Kate_Lilley, Kathleen_Stewart, Love, sexuality, writing
3. What is the wish of the dream?
I open my hand and a small cluster of people peer up at me out of it silent and bug-eyed. I draw them out of my palm like taffy, but there is no snapping sound and no lost teeth. In a minute the crowded room buzzes harshly, wondering why it had bothered one more time to show up for nothing but an exhausted optimism. I was lucky to be the dreamer because the dreamer never stops being interested. People know when they haven’t said enough, that’s why they dream. Or that’s not why they dream, but why they continue loving.
When I met him he was raking leaves, in his tiny yard; usually they’re across some table in a room. And what of the very bald one who practices his Foucault Face™ in the mirror each day? If I try to write the story of someone who worked hard in case he showed up to work, what is the plot? She played touch tag by saying a thing then running into a field of noise. The delay architecture is so deliberate I can feel the shot-reverse-shot, the voiceover, and the signs of truth tattooed on my often-entered vagina. (more…)
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Detachment theory, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, pedagogy, psychoanalysis, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: adults, affect, children, Lydia_Davis, memory, psychoanalysis, things, writing
1. The Test
There’s a can of blueberries at the back of the shelf amid dust and flour mites or whatever it is that gets into the rice, like an old writing file where you made a deposit in the darkness of a late style. As though berries too syrupy even for ice cream and the cheesecakes your mother never got to make were just waiting around for you to be found, like that child in the game. (more…)
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, emotion, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, pedagogy, poetry, psychoanalysis, sexuality, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Adam_Phillips, Ariana_Reines, Attachment, Bollas, Derrida, Love, Nancy, psychoanalysis, shattered_love, teaching, writing
Delaminated from week 1 lecture notes, Love Theory (Winter 2012)…
I am a love theorist. I sometimes feel dissociated from all my loves. I sometimes ask them to hold more of an image of me than I can hold. By “sometimes” I mean all the times. The image is the regressed form, not the narrative noise that comes later to try to apply adhesive to the fantasy and its representation in objects, so that I know I am an event that lives in the world. The love and the images available for it are in a Thunderdome death-love match, yet we act as though affect could be held within a steady-state space like meat on a hook, or the image of meat on a hook, since actual meat turns green. Most storage lockers are cold enough to slow down that decay, as we know from narrative and domesticity. Aggressions and tenderness pop around in me without much of a thing on which to project blame steadily or balance an idealization. So it’s just me and phantasmagoric noise that only sometimes feels like a cover song for a structuring shape or an improv around genre. In love I’m left holding the chaos bag and there is no solution that would make these things into sweet puzzle pieces. See Phillips’ reading of attachment as the drive to return to the taste of another person: the “sweetness” love stands for binds itself to an infinity of objects and plots and strategies for investing the scene with a worthiness matching our intensity of a need for its nourishment. This is why, perhaps too, Laplanche uses the word “metabolize.”
This is a philosophical “I”. I don’t feel like using “we,” because I fall into the banality pit when I do. (See Derrida on film on love. He should have trusted his first instinct to say nothing, since what he says is nothing, but he was being a good boy, and trying to maintain his availability for the interviewer’s idealization, the death in life of the call and response: he was trying to be loveable. Maybe the phrases one offers as gifts are the best love because they metarecognize the demand for love in any call: but, in itself, the professor’s discourse is not an opening to the other’s inconvenience, and it is not love if it is not opened to that.) (more…)
Filed under: affect, ambivalence, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Detachment theory, emotion, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, pedagogy, psychoanalysis, sexuality, sovereignty, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Bloomingdales, Camera_Obscura, cigarettes, femininity, french-wrap, high_heels, mother's_day, nominalism
I noticed, over the last few months, as my mother was dying, that I had taken pictures that seemed very specific. Now I am looking at the archive, as one looks at a drying hand after a manicure.
My mother died of femininity. I told her that I would say this about her. She had said, “Will you write a book about me?” and I asked if she wanted me to. She said “Yes. I want you to say that I left the world a better place because I had you!” I said I thought that this was a bad idea: people would think it an excuse to write about me. She said, “Can you think of another topic?” I offered this phrase about femininity, and explained why. My brother-in-law thought that it would be better to say that my mother died from vanity rather than from femininity. I can see why he would prefer that story; it’s interesting to see how a label shifts the implication.
In her late teens she took up smoking, because it was sold as a weight-reduction aid. When she died she had aggressive stage 4 lung cancer. In her teens she started wearing high heels, to enhance the back arch and ass-to-calves posture whose strut transforms the whole body to a sexual tableau, shifting between teetering and stillness. Later, she had an abortion and on the way out tripped down the stairs in those heels, hurting her back permanently. Decades later, selling dresses at Bloomingdale’s, she was forced to carry, by her estimate, 500 lbs. of clothes each day. Shop girls, you know, are forced to dress like their customers. They have to do this to show that they understand the appropriate universe of taste, even while working like mules in that same universe, carrying to their ladies stacks of hanging things and having to reorganize what their ladies left behind on the dressing room floor. She liked this job, because she liked being known as having good taste.
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, emotion, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, Politics, potentiality, psychoanalysis, sexuality, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: affect, drama, emotion, theatre
The fantasy of a common sense, a sense of a capacity or of something affectively general at the core of democracy, is not necessarily sentimental. But the drive to create a more capacious democratic sensorium so often tips into intimacy’s sentimental vernacular that its placeholder status as conceptual magnet, not origin or experience, is very hard to discipline–and the drive to discipline it is the source of so much social theory. The local occasion of this post is the Theatre Oobleck production of There Is a Happiness That Morning Is. The play, riffing on Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, was classic Oobleck: noisy, vital, and entirely intentional. There wasn’t a supervalent moment in it, which was an achievement of sorts, since it is about love and fucking and freedom and lyric poetry and death, and how they shape profound scenes of self-encounter that reveal enigmas of suffering and impaired autonomy at the heart of ordinary intimacy. But it was unsatisfying, because it aimed to be too satisfying: the writing overdramatized every emotion, including disbelief, as though to color within the lines must amount to blackening an entire page. In this it was exemplary of so much aesthetic and theoretical work that works over the emotions, attempting to drown out the affects and to claim that when we are authentic we feel one known thing at a time.
The problem of writing about this play is that any substantive discussion of it will make it more wonderful than any minute of seeing it. This is what critical engagement does: it adds value through staging interest that’s been magnetized to a form. It converts the event of form into a situation. In reading with a thing a transitional environment emerges that changes what attention can attend to. The encounter makes change prehensible, resonating toward a leavening sense of a concept whose potentiality is virtually affirmed even if the encounter itself fails to have much afterlife. But what I am trying to do is to think about the downsides of potentiality modes when they are tethered to a simplifying desire for emotions already normatively held in common to provide a foundation for (aesthetic or political) transformation.
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Belonging, Craziness, economy, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, potentiality, psychoanalysis, queerness, sexuality, sovereignty, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog | Tags: Attachment, gesture, Lingis, mumblecore, Sara_Ahmed, structure_of_feeling, _Greenberg_
Remember the time I told you about the day I took a vacation from work during which time I watched a movie I needed to watch for work about a man who was taking an extended vacation from work as a way of life but who was redeemed from lifelessness by a woman who embodied a younger generation’s practice of diffused ambition, so that a baffling heterosexual tendency could be saved for another day and the confrontation with not understanding the lover, oneself, labor, or what “a life” is could be delayed and preserved in a sweet promise not to give up on sick dogs and to hang around for whatever potential whiff of relief might emanate from anywhere?
Maybe mumblecore is right, that all life needs is a “whatever” at the points where it seems impossible—a gesture of optimism that can’t bear a lot, but that can indicate an otherwise that could become the something stacked right above the nothing. Life, friends, is gestural. We must not say so. A gesture is the performance of contact that makes a conjuncture of the abstract and the immediate. Contact is a potential anchor, a movement that makes a moment stick or become passable, sometimes shaped toward the possible. Those haps can be a mere flicker or can build into atmospheres and environments for affective, imaginative, and politically collective activity, whether or not we pay attention to them. In the next few posts I’m going to engage some different ways of mediating contact’s gestural structuration of affect, its presentation of an opportunity to encounter the affective event. The aim is to brainstorm some extensions of the “structure of feeling” concept toward different aspects of the sensus communis that will undergird my next two books. (more…)
Filed under: Ordinariness, Theory of this Blog, Affect Theory, Craziness, Attachment, Love, Belonging, writing, Detachment theory, optimism, Politics, Mood, emotion, potentiality, economy, Encounters, non-sovereignty, sovereignty, depression | Tags: affect_theory, Blue_Valentine, Greenberg, austerity, responsibility, history_of_the_present, academia, failure
I experimented with taking a day off. It was likely to be a failure, because it had to be an experiment, as I have no habits of leaving the desk, only habits of clawing a path back to it, which is odd because I never leave it, except when I am forced to by my job or my career, which are also what force me back, or there’s a movie to watch, but even then, if it’s at home, the “desk” comes with me like a friend, resting on the arm of the couch so I can turn to it anxiously when I hit a moment of not understanding. Even at the gym, I work on the elliptical. I am on a plane now. Leonardo DiCaprio’s coffee is shaking slow-mo and the people are acting as though they’re dissociating but his face is too wide, square, fat, or flat for me to cathect, which is a mimetic response.
I had begun to address my life with a flat voice. It was bad: usually I can get by with my drive to remain tethered to the potentially good event while meanwhile the infrastructure stumbles along. The causes of this sudden synthesis toward a dark plateau were, anyway, so overdetermined as to induce an affective semicolon. The correct analysis of a symptom does not reveal, produce, point to, or give confidence about the shape of its cure, which is why so much work in the humanities limps along in the phrases that follow out the description of a problem.
Two new big classes and a paper deadline and a vast job search and the students spilling out all late into December because we ask them to be intellectuals but give them no time to do it, inculcating in the upcoming professional class a fatigue autoerotics along with a shamed and confused awareness that these labor conditions allow only tumbling down a hill and then revising it later to look like a plan, when it was only doing what you could do at the time (my epitaph) in an act of blind hope. A cab driver today told me about all of the men he knows who beat women. I can’t remember why, it was like a dream. We talked of how hard it is to unlearn habits of intimate violence–not just to others but to oneself–since assuming a gender requires violence and shame and competence anxieties that never leave, and people can exhaust (fade or inflate) after a while of showing up for the audition. I promise that next year will be different: I won’t try to finish a book. I will be rolling around in a beginning that has already started. Meanwhile I felt I could crack into permanent consistency, although I don’t know what that would mean, if I didn’t take a day off. (more…)
Filed under: Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Encounters, Love, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, Politics, supervalent_thought, writing | Tags: Kathleen_Stewart, kinship, ordinariness, queer_kinship, Wikileaks
“Why do you keep washing his face, he’s not dirty, he’s hungry.”
What appears to be a daughter flings this dirt at what appears to be her mother, and for the millionth time, it sounds like: but it’s an empirical question, a queer question, I say to myself, what the relation actually is. It’s as though their sheer look-alikeness established the right to bicker mercilessly and in public–in this case, the airport gate waiting area. There’s a tenderness in all of it, too, though, and pride in ownership, with a worn-out kindness that the company perhaps shouldn’t have registered seeing. But I looked up. The older than me woman, thick with cake makeup so maybe not, tilts toward me and says, “Why do I do things like that? You should write about people like me,” and I said, “What would you want people to know?” and the younger woman says, deeply, “Don’t ask!” and we all laugh because Don’t Ask is always tragicomic.
Don’t Ask echoes Katie Stewart’s anecdote about someone saying I could write a book. “People are always saying to me “I could write a book,” she writes:
Filed under: class, Craziness, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, psychoanalysis, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, trauma, writing
1. I am reading other people’s work during a long travel corseting. Much of it is interesting and plausible: I try, it tries. I feel dull toward it, pickled.
Most of the writing we do is actually a performance of stuckness. It is a record of where we got stuck on a question for long enough to do some research and write out the whole knot until the original passion and curiosity that made us want to try to say something about something got so detailed, buried, encrypted, and diluted that the energetic and risk-taking impulse became sealed and delivered in the form of a defense against thinking any more about it. Along the way, something might have happened to the scene the question stood for: or not.
2. I never fall out of love, but run out of gas. That’s what I mean by thinking as a transformation within stuckness. All the noise of research and explanation gets created to materialize the thickness of an interest; the noise circles around its object and barely, usually, congeals the force to move it anywhere, although sometimes it does. The thought is never finished—in Deleuzean terms, the problem-event that governs the situation is in potential–but what I’m talking about in the finishing is something else, the movement within stuckness between making an opening and defending against so much of that which spikes out from the openings one makes until the thing has to be relinquished and moved into the world. (more…)